Estrella Mountain Park’s Gila River

Students took a field trip to test water quality at  Estrella Mountain Park’s Gila River. 

It’s one thing to learn about water quality from books and in a classroom lecture. And it’s quite another thing to learn about water quality from the water itself. That was the thinking behind Dr. Jershon Eagar, high school science teacher at BASIS Goodyear. 

“I wanted to bring the classroom to the world,” he said. 

Dr. J, as the students call him, recently took the students to several water sources in the area so they could not only collect samples to test, but to see firsthand the different things that impact the water, such as its surroundings.

But first, to prepare for their field trips, he had the students study the water at the school. They pulled water samples from school sinks and water fountains inside and outside, including the filtration system in the nurse’s office. They measured chlorine, fluorescents, and other things that could possibly be found in the water. Thankfully, what they found was that the water was safe, and that it was fairly uniform from one spot to the next.

“We didn’t see much of a difference in the water, which was a relief,” said one student, Adhalwei Betancur. 

Now with some experience in water testing under their belts, they were ready to venture to valley water sources.

Next the students headed to Estrella Mountain Park’s Gila River, located in Goodyear, to investigate the water quality there. Being a natural water source, they water samples yielded about what the teacher and students had predicted.

“We read scientific literature and papers on current events, atmosphere, and climate change to enhance our learning,” the teacher said. 

The water there was as students expected, with nothing out of the ordinary to report. And the numbers would then offer a good comparison to their next field trip—Tempe Town Lake.

They decided to test Tempe Town Lake since it has a cement bottom and some people have complained about its murkiness. Generally, the students hypothesized that they’d find some differences in the water there.

“We determined it was more gunky-looking,” said Andrew Davis, a student at BASIS. 

After collecting samples and testing the water from Tempe Town Lake, students were surprised at the findings—they didn’t find anything of concern.

“There were more fluorescents in the water, which suggests stagnant water,” said student Sanjin Gonilovic. And it makes sense, since it is stationary and not with natural features like at Estrella.

“It has no interactions with water, soil, rocks, roots, or other things in the river bed,” added Gonilovic.

The students’ ultimate conclusion of the water quality at Tempe Town Lake? Neither dangerous or unsafe, and overall the different aspects they tested were in acceptable ranges. 

Eagar said the field trips and water testing has sparked some very interesting conversations in the classroom. Beyond the science of water quality, they’ve been discussing how politics factor into the mix, such as water laws and finances allocated to improving water quality. 

“They have a lot of enthusiasm. I’m very impressed,” the teacher said. Plus, seeing students who weren’t exactly interested in science come around and be very engaged was rewarding. 

“It’s so important that the content inspires kids,” said Stacey Rassas, auxiliary programs assistant at BASIS.